Tue, Jul 29, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Asia Pacific has high hopes for its 3G

MOBILE SERVICES The company has set ambitious goals for itself but thinks lower prices and a variety of options will win over a nation of cell-phone savvy consumers

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's first third-generation (3G) mobile phone service provider, Asia Pacific Broadband Wireless Communications Inc (亞太行動寬頻), said it hopes to attract 700,000 users by the end of the year, accounting for 2.8 percent of the total market.

During an exclusive interview with the Taipei Times yesterday, An Chung-ming (安仲明), chief executive officer of Asia Pacific, described the figures as "a challenging but reachable target."

Mobile customers in Taiwan purchase about 6 million new handsets every year, which means each month there are 500,000 customers moving from one mobile operator to another one.

"I think we can get some of those customers coming to us -- because of our attractive handsets and good services," An said.

Over the last 14 months, Asia Pacific has spent several billion NT dollars to purchase equipment, to build networks and to set up a software platform, said the Bell Laboratories-trained An.

The company currently has set up 600 base stations around the nation and is expected to build up to 1,000 base stations by year-end, he added.

Taiwan has the world's highest mobile-service penetration rate. As of April, there were 24.85 million mobile-phone users or a penetration rate of nearly 120 percent, surpassing Luxembourg to rank as the highest in the world, according to the Directorate General of Telecommunications.

To break into the highly competitive market, Asia Pacific has named its service "Qma" -- representing "quality multimedia services" -- and plans to lure consumers with rich content and low prices.

"We've linked up with 70 content providers to deliver movie clips, TV news, multimedia games and friend-making features," An said.

For example, downloading one 30-second TV news item takes several seconds and will cost NT$3, he said.

Asia Pacific's 3G network is designed to transmit Internet data at 153.6 kilobits per second, three times faster than current networks or 13 times faster than traditional mobile-data services.

While the company said it has no plan to initiate a price war with other mobile-service providers, its airtime charge is nearly 20 percent lower than its rivals.

The company has bought nearly 1 million handsets from South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co and SK Telecom. It plans to sell the Samsung X789 handset for NT$20,500 and the SK Telecom AP1000 for NT$13,500, plus a two-year subscription.

Unlike other mobile-phone service providers that rely on US or European handsets to deliver their service, Asia Pacific turned to South Korean vendors to make use of their experience in delivering 3G, An explained.

SK Telecom, South Korea's largest mobile-phone service provider, launched 3G two years ago, and its data services revenue right now accounts for 20 percent to 22 percent to it total revenue, compared to only 3 percent in Taiwan, An said.

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